China Tourists Tense After Manila Killings

China Tourists Tense After Manila Killings

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BEIJING - Monday's killings of Hong Kong tourists in Manila has caused some Chinese travelers to cancel their plans to go to the Philippines, with China officials on Tuesday issuing an outbound travel alert for the Southeast Asia country.

Chinese tourists currently in the Philippines are asked to exercise caution, and travel agencies organizing groups to the Philippines are urged to pay "high attention" to local security and better protect the tourists, the National Tourism Administration of China (CNTA) said in a statement on its website.

The warning came immediately after the death of eight Hong Kong tourists in a bus hijacking in Manila, capital of the Philippines, on Monday.

"Customers keep calling us to ask about safety issues after the bloody incident," said a staffer in charge of the Philippines-bound travel at BTG Outbound Tours, a Beijing-based travel agency, who would reveal only her surname as Zhang.

"So far, one-third of our group customers who had planned to visit the Philippines at the beginning of September have cancelled their trips," Zhang said. "The rest are taking a wait-and-see attitude, depending on how the situation goes."

Yao Sijia, a manager of the outbound travel department of China Youth Travel Service, said clients who want to cancel trips will receive full refunds.

Zheng Ying, a Beijing tourist who returned from the Philippines one month ago, said she dared not visit there again.

She said before she saw the bloody images on TV news, she had indulged in nice memories of the Philippines' beautiful beaches and blue seas. "The incident has ruined a paradise in the world," she said.

Shi Huali, a 22-year-old Chinese-Filipina who studies at a university in Beijing, said she is not satisfied with the public security in Manila. She always advises her Chinese friends who visit the Philippines to hire a local as their guide.

"The criminals do not target Chinese tourists, but if you cannot communicate in the local language, you get attacked more easily," she said.

In case of emergency, tourists may call the Chinese embassy in the Philippines at 0063-2-8482409 or 0063-9178972695, the CNTA statement said.

But travel agencies in Beijing and Shanghai have not canceled their tours to the Philippines, as the CNTA has not required them to do so, industry people said.

Shi Qing, a marketing manager of the China International Travel Service in Beijing, said the hostage taking is an isolated incident, and most of her clients have not cancelled their trips. The agency has three ongoing tours in operation.

Evelyn Macayayongoic, a tourism coordination officer with the Philippine Department of Tourism, also said Monday's hijacking is an isolated incident that should not damage the entire country's safety and security reputation.

"We never want any harm to come to our guests and we're truly sorry about what happened. We're trying to rebuild visitors' confidence to our country," she said.

The Philippines has several islands that are popular with tourists, including Boracay Island, Puerto Galera and Cebu Island. Prices for these island tours cost 4,000 to 8,000 yuan ($588 to $1,176) for Chinese tourists, cheaper than trips to other hot Southeastern islands such as Bali in Indonesia.

In 2008, Chinese tourists made 160,000 trips to the Philippines, making China a major tourism source for the Philippines following the United States, Japan and South Korea, according to the Philippine Department of Tourism.

Some tourists view the incident an isolated one and will continue their travels.

Wang Ke of Beijing said he would not change his plans to visit the country during the national holidays, and he hoped that the incident would make the travel fees lower.

Tan Zongyang contributed to this story